Ottemann Laboratory: How Bacterial Pathogens Sense and Respond to Host Environments
Professor Karen Ottemann's laboratory investigates how bacterial pathogens sense chemical cues in their host environment and translates that information into a response that allows colonization. Ottemann is particularly interested in the role of chemoreceptors and chemotaxis associated with the bacterium Helicobacter pylori. This pathogen infects some 3 billion humans and can lead to serious disease, including ulcers and cancer. Ottemann's lab probes how chemotaxis aids bacterial infection and the function of the atypical proteins of H. pylori’s chemotactic signal transduction system.
The laboratory's studies span the fields of molecular microbiology, microbial behavior, biochemistry and immunology. Recent work by the lab on the role of chemotaxis in infection has determined that this bacterial process allows H. pylori to thrive throughout the stomach, and to interact with the stomach cells in such a way as to promote disease. This finding suggests that blocking chemotaxis would ameliorate disease symptoms. Ottemann's lab also studies the proteins of the H. pylori chemotaxis system, characterizing those with unpredicted activities, including the H. pylori CheZ phosphatase, the CheV coupling proteins and the TlpD chemoreceptor.